Amish Abstractions: Quilts from the Collection of Faith and Stephen Brown). If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area I highly recommend that you find a little time to see this exhibit -- it's really quite stunning!
What really struck me about the quilts in this exhibit was the juxtaposition of the really big and bold with the really tiny and intricate. The quilt shown here is a perfect example. Many of the designs, like this one, are large-scale designs. This one consists of a single eight-pointed star. Just one single star. The borders are often also really wide (often much wider than the one shown here), which really sets off the big motif in the middle. These large elements really encourage you to view the quilts from a distance, to step back and see the bigger picture, as it were.
But on the other hand, these large motifs are frequently made of loads and loads of tiny little pieces. Look at all the little diamonds and squares that make up the star and the border of this quilt. That's a lot of pieces! There is one log cabin quilt in the exhibit that the docent indicated had been estimated to have over 6000 individual pieces. 6000. I believe it -- they were so tiny! Add to the myriad of tiny pieces the exquisitely fine and detailed quilting and you have yourself a real eye-full. Amish quilting is world-renowned, and it's easy to see why. Stitches (as many as 13 per inch!) are composed into beautiful designs wrought in thread that closely matches the colors of the quilt, making you have to lean in close to really see the finer details.
The combination of large scale and fine details literally had me doing a little dance in the exhibit hall as I stood back, then moved in for a closer look, then stood back again to reevaluate. And I wasn't the only one!
While it may be difficult to achieve the level of mastery of these quilters, the designs they used are very accessible and very modern-looking still today. If you have an interest in learning how to quilt, give us a call and we can schedule a private lesson for you with one of our quilting instructors. Or get a group of friends together for a class and a cup of tea and it will feel like you're part of an old-fashioned Amish quilting bee!